UD hosts Mid-Atlantic HHMI meeting
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11:23 a.m., June 11, 2009----Representatives from 10 colleges in the Mid-Atlantic region visited UD's Newark campus on Saturday, June 6, for the first middle Atlantic regional conference for Howard Hughes Medical Institute's (HHMI) Undergraduate Science Education Program.

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The HHMI program funds grants to nearly 100 colleges and universities nationwide, including the University of Delaware.

Attending Saturday's meeting at the University of Delaware were representatives from Bryn Mawr, Franklin and Marshall, Georgetown, Haverford, Lehigh, Princeton, St. Joseph's, Swarthmore, University of Maryland and Wilkes, as well as UD. In addition, two program directors, two program officers and a science writer from HHMI in Chevy Chase, Md., attended.

The goals of the meeting were to familiarize the participants with the programs at other schools, share experiences and challenges, and foster communication, cooperation and collaboration among the HHMI programs that, despite their distinctive initiatives, have common interests and similar challenges.

George Watson, deputy dean of UD's College of Arts and Sciences, welcomed the 30 participants, highlighting the accomplishments of the HHMI program at UD. He noted that HHMI support has enhanced UD's undergraduate research program, enabled the nationally recognized NUCLEUS Program, initiated a new quantitative biology major in the Department of Mathematical Sciences and promoted active-learning efforts in the sciences on the campus.

Watson spoke for all schools represented when he noted the tremendous impact HHMI has had on many campuses in providing leadership in transforming the way science is taught and providing guidance through such publications as BIO 2010 and the just released document on medical education, Scientific Foundations for Future Physicians. Such external support and recognition from HHMI legitimizes efforts that are often difficult to initiate or sustain from within an institution.

Four panel sessions focused on the areas that HHMI funding supports: student research and broadening access to science; current, new and future faculty development; curriculum, equipment and laboratory development; and pre-college and other outreach. Additional breakout sessions were devoted to specific challenges facing HHMI programs.

David Asai, HHMI program director for precollege and undergraduate science education, described the effects of the global financial situation on HHMI funding, the 2010 HHMI grant offering and the coupled request for proposals to address significant science education problems with substantive and perhaps risky experiments. He emphasized the importance of involving research-active faculty in science education initiatives.

Next year the group will meet at Haverford.

Saturday's UD meeting was organized by Hal White, HHMI undergraduate program director, chemistry and biochemistry, with assistance from David Usher, assistant director, biological sciences; Lisa Robinson, staff assistant; and Jacqueline Aldridge, NUCLEUS coordinator. Other participating UD faculty included John Pelesko mathematics, Gilberto Schleiniger, mathematics, and Prasad Dhurjati, chemical engineering.

Article by Hal White

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